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One the Exceptional Position of the Auditory Sphere - Otto Isakower

One the Exceptional Position of the Auditory Sphere - Otto Isakower

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(1939). On the Exceptional Position of the Auditory Sphere.

International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:340-348 On the Exceptional Position of the Auditory Sphere Otto Isakower The course of the following considerations was determined by a suggestion arising from a somewhat remote department of the physiology of the senses. Josef Breuer was the first to put forward the suggestion (in 1874), which was later fully established, that the otolith apparatus of the lower animals does not serve the function of hearing, as was formerly supposed, but the perception of the movement and position of the body relative to its environment and orientation in space.1 Earlier still it had been observed that certain crustaceans, whose otocysts open to the exterior through a crack and contain small foreign bodies as otoliths, lose these together with the shell at every moult, after which they introduce new ones, being quite indifferent to what material is offered to them for the purpose. The creatures feel around eagerly on the floor of the aquarium with their claws and fill the otocysts with grains of sand or the like, which they have picked up. With the intention of settling the question, beyond all dispute, of the function of these organs, the otocysts (or statocysts as they have been more correctly named since then), the Viennese physiologist, A. Kreidl, following a suggestion of Exner, induced the crustacean Palæmon to take up iron-dust into its statocysts.2 So statoliths were formed which were subject to magnetic influence. When he approached such an animal with a strong electromagnet from the dorsal side, the statoliths were lifted up on to the dorsal wall of the statocysts, thereby taking up the same position as they would occupy in a normal animal which had fallen on its back. Just like such an animal, accordingly, the crustacean which had been magnetised turned itself over and remained lying on its back, for when it was in this position the statoliths occupied their normal place. About the same time it was established that crustaceans possess no means whatever of hearing. These famous experiments in the physiology of the senses at first sight seemed to be a model specially suitable for didactic purposes, without further significance, in representing plastically the processes concerned in primary identification and certain characteristics of the relations between ego and external world in the early stages of mental development which are difficult to represent. As we said, these crustaceans strive eagerly after moulting to fill their statocysts as quickly as possible with suitable material; a small piece of the external world is made into an integral part of an organ, a part which is essential for the purpose of completing a predetermined structure, of establishing it and making it able to
1 2

Breuer, 'Ueber die Funktion der Bogengänge des Ohrlabyrinthes', Medizinisches Jahrbuch, 1874, S. 44. Kreidl, 'Weitere Beiträge zur Physiologie des Ohrlabyrinthes (II. Mittheilung), Versuche an Krebsen', Sitzungsber d. Kais. Akad. d. Wiss. in Wien, Mathem.-natur. Classe, Bd. CII.

We shall use the term 'sphere' to include not only the whole apparatus in all its portions from the periphery to the centre. But this basis is in fact given by the circumstance that the organs of the sense of equilibrium and orientation in space. But something more than a chance analogy would be necessary in order to establish such a view. By means of a cunning modification the scientist's experiment accentuated in particular one factor in this natural situation. In order to denote shortly the two regions which are to be compared. which was approached at first without any ulterior intention. is of incomparably greater biological importance than the other developmental tendency. Any material whatever is accepted by the animal provided that it fulfils certain conditions of form and consistency. the whole process. without undergoing any elaboration to change it. may become capable of fulfilling its task. and for the regulation of relationships with it. and the organ of auditory perception are very closely associated with each other in that (1) they originate both phylogenetically and embryologically in a single tissue and (2) they remain anatomically and functionally closely bound together—the eighth cranial nerve provides for the conveyance of the stimuli from both sensory regions. but also the part of the psychical structure to which the actual sensory apparatus is subordinated and which provides for the further elaboration of incoming perceptions. A piece of the external world. namely magnetizable. seized our interest much more intensively. There would have to be a probability of a deeper relationship between the two processes. One fully agrees with this view when one considers the rôle of speech in reference to both the 3 Der Aufbau der Funktionen in der Hörsphäre. To enter into problems of a physiological and a psychological nature connected with the sphere of the spatial sense is not necessary for the present discussion. has to be incorporated into a special place in the organism in order that an apparatus of very central importance for the orientation of the individual in the world. which are included in the vestibular apparatus. the animal thereby remains 'at the call' of the magnet. we shall speak of them in what follows as 'the sphere of the spatial sense' and 'the auditory sphere'. particularly therefore those of speech. namely. that. that of energy: should the piece of the external world which is picked up (introjected) be of a special kind. towards hearing the pitch of notes and music. if one may say so. to serve as a basis for the proposed comparison. until its next moult. unperceived by us.function. it seemed rather to demand a detailed comparative consideration. With regard to the function of hearing a recent and comprehensive study of this sphere by W. and the modest rôle of a superficial aid in the representation of completely disparate processes no longer seemed adequate for it. Börnstein3 has led to the conclusion that in the case of human beings the physiological conditions in the primary auditory centre indicate that the hearing of ordered noises. 1930. . Housed within the statocysts it now represents— pars pro toto —the external world inside the organism and helps it to regulate the relations of the individual to the whole of the rest of the external world (or at least to an important aspect of it). But.

Woltereck writes4: 'Apart from the fact that speech is essential as a means of communicating experiences. the supply of very specific material to the auditory sphere is a very important and essential condition for the establishing of the ability to speak. Research on the brain also seems to furnish indirect evidence of this. 1932. The function of this part is the development of a grammatical. and as a means of understanding between men. the development of a grammatical and logical order in the processes of speech and thought— all of which for our present purpose may be attributed to the auditory sphere. it has indeed a directive function for our cognition in two senses.' It follows from this that the auditory sphere is one of the most important apparatuses for the regulation of relations with the environment and with the introjected representations of interests in that environment. but which we must regard as having arisen in connection with the acoustic sensory apparatus. but shall be satisfied with the statement that what we are concerned with here is the assimilation and correct combination of verbal images. since it fastens our thinking to precisely these forms of sentences and transmitted forms of words. There is much to be said for the view that at earlier stages of development a close connection exists between the linguistic and logical concept 'right—wrong' ('correct— incorrect') on the one hand and the moral concept 'right—wrong' ('good—bad') on the 4 Grundzüge einer allgemeinen Biologie. syntactic and logical framework for the function of speech and thought and for the development of the function of judgement. in the case of a child with its sensory apparatus intact. and the comprehension and ordering of impressions of the surrounding world. It furthers and directs our cognitive activities because it contains within its verbal structures and forms of sentences a precipitate of the collective forms of thought of mankind which everyone of us employs and elaborates further. In the present-day theory of the ontogenetic development of speech the supposition is fairly well established that the acquisition of speech depends on the condition that the material of speech should be presented to the child from the outside and that no really creative factor is operative in the acquisition of speech by the individual. And therefore. . R. We are not going to deal here with all the difficult and disputed fundamental questions of the psychology of speech. Accordingly we have to ascribe to the auditory sphere a part which has hardly anything to do with the function of hearing in the narrow sense. And it exercises a very important influence by means of inhibitions upon the deeper probing of our cognitive activities. since it establishes that it is in the region of the radiations of the auditory tract that the cyto-architectonic formation of the cerebral cortex shows the relatively greatest difference between men and the anthropoids in the building-up of the layers. an arrangement absolutely specific for the human species.building up of the ego.

It is this which seems to speak for the view that at least in an early stage in the development of the ego the function of reality-testing can hardly be separated off sharply from the function which has to judge the individual's own methods of behaviour as 'correct or incorrect' and 'right or wrong'. which has itself to be enriched and further built up with the help of the components (objects) that are to be introjected. as we know. Bd. 45. the comparison of the crustaceans and their static organ with the process of introjection in man. and that differentiation of speech is indispensibly necessary for this. Moreover it is probable that the function of judgement in its beginnings is to be conceived of as a single unit in judging processes both in the external world and in the internal world. The comparative view seems to make possible a clearer working out of an ego-apparatus than has been the case previously. but even so it is worthy of note that the linguistic branch of education cannot be thought of as isolated from the rest. Certainly this fact has a great deal to do with the way in which education in speech takes place. Jahrbuch für Psychiatrie. If we may recall once more the facts concerning the crustaceans. 1927. and as a result of doing so. . In order that the child shall handle speech as a tool. By using this phylogenetic example would it not be possible to obtain more than a metaphorical representation of primary incorporation and its results? We believe that we have proved that it is probable that in the psychical structure also there are indications that the auditory sphere occupies an exceptional position. Let us return to our starting-point. but later (in The Ego and the Id) decided upon a correction. 'Ueber Gleichgewichtsstörungen'. On the other hand there is good reason to ascribe to the super-ego function something of the character of perception. when one considers that the ego can take itself as an object.other. Schilder. The problem of reality-testing is closely bound up with this. as the phylogenetic descendant of the static apparatus. in self-observation. and that consequently these two differently directed parts of the function are not easy to separate. still has quite clearly very much in common with the organ of equilibrium. assigning it to the ego as its specific task. which makes it of much greater importance in its central portions than the corresponding portions of the other sensory spheres.5 provided one accepts it as true that the super-ego functions like a psychical organ of equilibrium. in accordance with the relations of the ego to the world of perception. first ascribed reality-testing to the super-ego. it looks exactly as though in both cases—in the integration of 5 Cf. Freud. and in particular an ego-apparatus which renders possible the mechanism of primary identification and represents the predetermined structure. On the other hand the question for us here is to show that the auditory sphere. which is indisputably a super-ego function. the auditory sphere itself is fundamentally altered in a sense full of potentialities.

It is just as self-evident that these experiences and impressions are acquired by way of sense perception. the attainment of the next stage would be dependent upon speech having in fact been placed at the disposal of this substratum by the environment. p. For we know that the child is not capable by itself of constructing new words. this finds support in all that we believe we know about the earliest stage of man's psychical development. Just as the statement 'the nucleus of the ego is the body-ego' has not merely a genetic significance. by themselves and without showing any linguistically ordered structure. The Ego and the Id. Further. that is to say of a particular region of the cerebral cortex. which is peculiar to man. indeed.6 so the human auditory sphere.e. but is also fully valid for the finished structure. The first of these stages would then consist. which differentiation alone makes possible the acquisition of speech. As the classical evidence for this we 6 Freud. But can one imagine that purely optical sense-impressions.the static organ in the crustacean and in the development of the ego-apparatus in man (i. 31. could possibly lead to the building up of a function of logical or ethical judgement? Without further discussion this question can certainly be answered in the negative. the human auditory sphere)—one and the same fundamental idea has been applied for the solution of a problem of organization. one would most easily imagine such a thing in the form of a specially modified region of the auditory sphere. but that he has to build up his speech from linguistic material which is presented to him ready made. The following formula then suggests itself: just as the nucleus of the ego is the body-ego. It is self-evident that experiences and impressions of the environment are necessary in order that a super-ego may be built up. in the biologically determined inborn differentiation of the organic substratum. But the claim of the auditory sphere to the primary place in the building up of the super-ego would be thereby established. so the assertion 'the nucleus of the super-ego is the auditory sphere' must also be confirmed in the fact that this aspect of the super-ego comes to light in certain circumstances. Nothing now stands in the way of the idea that this capacity for developing a super-ego. must have been laid down in advance in what one might call the ground-plan of the psychical structure. . But this very fact sets in motion the process of developing an observing and criticizing institution. to say nothing of a language. for example. is to be regarded as the nucleus of the super-ego. perhaps. as modified in the direction of a capacity for language. one would presumably have to picture this modification as being built up in temporally successive stages. and. which in the second case however is pregnant with results of incomparably greater importance. And if there is any sense at all in speaking of preliminary stages of super-ego formation.

although my internal speech is as a rule carried on with quite indistinct sound-images and only faint sensations in the lips. which can easily be understood as a faithful reproduction of what had been instilled into him as a child.'7. We must also observe the displacement outwards in double form (in 7 Freud. . 1891. but the same thing fundamentally. he was obliged to repeat aloud over and over: 'I am Max Koch from Alland' (which in fact he was). that is. The hallucinatory voices serve the purpose. A somewhat different picture. The super-ego character of these words is to be remarked. in whom an impoverishment and blunting of the inner life dominated the scene. yet in the moment of danger I heard these words as though someone were shouting them in my ear and saw them at the same time as though they were printed on a fluttering piece of paper. delusions of observation. When the integrity of the personality is threatened from within. this ego affirmed its existence by a magic formula. the perception by the self of a threatened loss of reality is shown very strikingly in the catastrophe of an epileptic attack. is well shown in the following single observation in the case of a schizophrenic. among other things. complained of attacks of physical incapacity to work. An essential element in these are alarming experiences in the realm of hearing: a keen awareness of cadences in the speech of the people around. being condensed into a moment. As is well known. A patient of Kinnear Wilson's described his auditory aura in the words: 'I seem to hear everything that has ever been said to me in all my life. One may perhaps be permitted to quote a personal reminiscence of Freud's: 'I remember that I have twice felt myself in danger of my life and each time the perception came quite suddenly. Zur Auffassung der Aphasien. the super-ego reveals both its history and its genesis. it reveals not only the way in which its nucleus arose but also of what its nucleus consists. when a threatened disruption of the ego was. an importing of deeper meaning into what is heard.' The disturbance in the balance of the psychical structure in situations of sudden danger to life also sometimes affords a deeper insight into the nature of this structure. The patient.may bring forward the phenomenon which Freud referred to as the one which first suggested the conception of the super-ego to him: namely. Vienna. and. (No epilepsy was present. as it were. while at the same time the verdict can be read. so that he had to lay aside whatever he held in his hands. In a critical situation. a man about twenty-six years' old. and he also felt a heavy pressure down upon the top of his head. In both cases I thought to myself "Now it's all up with you". of warning the sick person of the danger of being overpowered by the id. which sound like the pronouncement of judgement by a powerful authority.) At the same time something else always happened which the patient called 'self-talking' ['Selbstredung']. acutely experienced. falsifications of auditory perception and finally auditory hallucinations.

it was obliged to leave behind its linguistic belongings. to deeper research into the position of the auditory sphere in dreams. Although this flaring-up of linguistic activity (partly of an auditory and partly of a motor kind) appears at first sight like an enrichment. as he wakes up. in obedience to an order from the customs officials. It would be a valuable support to what has been brought forward here. which is the feature which we believe should be ascribed to the super-ego. sometimes threatening. he seizes the opportunity of making his voice heard once more very forcibly. feels an inexplicable respect. the linguistic auditory phenomena present themselves in a much briefer and more succinct form. It should only be briefly pointed out here that the fact discovered by Freud that the dream is not in a position (or is only in an inadequate one) to give expression to grammatical and logical connections (naturally this does not refer to speeches inside dreams) finds a surprisingly exact analogy in certain kinds of aphasic agrammatisms. has met with renewed and growing interest in the investigation of aphasia as well as elsewhere.speech and writing). Perhaps all this is only another aspect of the fact that before the 'censor'. It often happens in this way that a word or short sentence still reaches a dreamer. and at length there remains only an impression of lively and complicated periods without any verbal elements which can be clearly grasped (and this is perhaps one of the main reasons why the periods themselves are so difficult. to grasp) until at last the periods gradually pass over into a scarcely articulated murmur. but it loses its clarity more and more as it proceeds. sometimes criticizing—words for which the dreamer. The speech flows along in complex phrases. since the elaboration of the theory of agrammatism. starts again. which stops. if we could show that what we have said is nothing more than a further elaboration of what Freud meant . One could also conceive of the externalization as being the result of a narrowing of the personality to the body-ego as a consequence of the shock. At the moment of waking up. and finally passes over into sleep. and this call has very often a super-ego tinge. A further contribution to the subject is supplied by the observation that linguistic phenomena connected with going to sleep often show an almost exaggeratedly elaborate grammatical and syntactic structure. What we see here is not so much content that is characteristic of the super-ego but almost exclusively the tone and shape of a well-organized grammatical structure. From this point an approach is also opened up. while he is waking up. indeed almost completely impossible. perhaps. which is still so problematical and which. although they are very often a quite unintelligible jargon. One might say that going to sleep itself is a case of 'crossing the frontiers of speech': the ego behaves just as though. it gives the impression of a copious inflow and is nevertheless a flowing out. withdraws. it nevertheless ends in an impoverishment. a bright flickering-up of the auditory sphere before it is completely extinguished. like a call. with strongly accentuated sentences of animated and changing form. whom we know so well.

20:340-348 . Int. made in 1923. O. 105) and which in other respects is practically unaltered. On the Exceptional Position of the Auditory Sphere. the ego has on one side 'an auditory lobe' ['Hörkappe'. literally. J. Psycho-Anal.when he replaced his first graphic representation of the structure of the mind by another. In the first of these two sketches. Article Citation [Who Cited This?] Isakower.. in The Ego and the Id (p. In the repetition of this sketch. which appeared in 1933 in his New Introductory Lectures (p. this 'auditory lobe' is no longer to be seen. (1939). 'cap of hearing'] 'worn crooked'. The corresponding position is now occupied by the super-ego. 29).

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